REVIEW: Cast and crew give their all for another magical panto performance

Julie Waring, Gillian Alderson and Emma Robinson as Gnasher, King Rat and Nipper. Photo Rob Ellison.

By Betsy Everett

There are villains and fairies, sailors and shipwrecks, a larger than life Dame, an evil King Rat. There are grass skirts and palm trees, a tattooed island chief  and even – quite unexpectedly – a shark.

Hawes Amateur Operatic Society’s Dick Whittington and the Caribbean Pirates, is a classic, silly, rollicking pantomime, with the action moving improbably, as the title suggests, from the London docks to a Caribbean island.

The props, the scenery, the music, the lighting, the slick direction, the choreography, the singing would not have shamed the stage of a major city theatre. It was impossible at times to believe that we were in the community space that hosts craft shows and auctions the rest of the year.
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Remarkable, too, that this incredibly talented cast has not had the luxury of day-in-day-out rehearsals for the five shows in the run, but have had to fit learning lines, songs, dance routines, fight scenes and stage directions, around their everyday lives. A few fluffed lines, the sound system crackled and spat at critical times, but as the cast warmed to their task, building a rapport with the warm, enthusiastic audience which packed the town’s Market Hall on Wednesday, it became hard to believe that this was an amateur production.

It’s hard to single out favourites, but for commanding stage presence the evil genius of Gillian Alderson as King Rat, ably supported by the scary Gnasher and the hapless Nipper (Julie Waring and Emma Robinson), could hardly be beaten.

She never stumbled, except as part of the action, but stayed consistent and convincing throughout. Colin Tindill’s over-the-top Sarah, with all the camp silliness the role demands, was suitably unspeakable, and the island chief played by Carolyn Teasdale took the stage by storm, her outrageous headdress and face-paint matched by an equally bonkers but brilliant performance.

Of the younger players Kory Spink in the title role displayed a confidence and maturity beyond his years and the duet with fiancee, Alice Fitzwarren (India Atkinson), was a highlight of the night.

Jennifer Fawcett, Fairy Holly, also co-producer of the show. Photo by Rob Ellison.

One of the most captivating scenes, hilariously and cleverly played, was the shipwreck, the lighting and fabric creating stunning visual effects.

All-in-all, this is a lovely production and the chorus, some still at primary school,  deserve – and received on the night – a massive round of applause for their beautifully choreographed song and dance routines, the perfect antidote to those who think youngsters have no interest beyond a screen and a smartphone.

Jennifer Fawcett not only co-produced with the multi-tasking Colin Bailey (sound, lighting, keyboards) but played the Fairy Holly, linking the scenes with a nice lightness of touch.

But one of the truly remarkable achievements of this production is the quality and range of the costumes, a massive creative task headed by Liz Connelly, with Charlotte Reilly and a team of talented tailors.

Filling the director’s role for the first time, is company member Amy Cockett whose late father-in-law, John Cockett, revived the society nearly 60 years ago and dedicated so much of his life and talent to making it a success. He would be smiling with pride at the magic she has spun in this down-to-earth Dales market town’s traditional panto.

Performances, almost sold out, are at Hawes Market House at 7.30 pm today, Friday, with a matinee at 2pm on Sunday. Tickets are £9 for adults and £6.50 for under-12s from Hawes community office and library (01969 667400) open Monday to Friday 9am-5.30pm, Saturday 9am-12.30pm. Or book on-line at www.wensleydalemtg.co.uk

Carolyn Teasdale as the island chief with the junior chorus. Photo by Rob Ellison.

The shipwreck. Photo by Rob Ellison.

Photo by Rob Ellison.
Abby Alderson, Alana Teasdale and Ben Alderson. Photo by Rob Ellison.